On Fear and Food Allergies

We’ve been a food allergy family for almost three years now. It’s become so second-nature that it’s hard to remember a time when we ate whatever we wanted without a second thought.

Before food allergies, while I liked to bake, “from scratch” was a foreign term to me. If there was a work event, I was the one to sign up to bring the chips.

Now since my little guy was diagnosed with severe peanut and dairy allergies, we are obsessive label-readers. If I’m baking, you can bet that it’s entirely from scratch. (I still remember the first pie crust I made from scratch – definitely a milestone.)

It’s overwhelming at first, but you learn to adapt. We are so thankful to live in a time when so many allergy-friendly options exist.

And that’s something we learned quickly: It’s all about the substitutions. While there are some great allergy-friendly recipes out there (check out my recipes board on Pinterest for ideas), what has worked best for us is to use allergy-friendly ingredients in our old recipes. My favorite go-to substitutions are Enjoy Life chocolate chips and Earth Balance non-buttery spread.

Let me be clear that I am not any sort of paid endorser – these products have truly been a blessing for my family. I can’t tell you the satisfaction as a parent to find a way to let your child try a food that everyone else enjoys that he cannot otherwise have.

Let me also be clear that, while it’s gotten easier, it’s not easy. I haven’t forgotten what it was like when we first started on this journey. I remember the initial terror, feeling like anything you feed your child could harm him. (The fear and doubt are still there, believe me.) And I’m certainly not trying to paint a rosy, perfect picture, like we’ve got it all figured out. Right about the time we found out my son is starting to outgrow his dairy allergy (we are currently re-introducing foods), we discovered that I’ve developed food allergies of my own.

So to other food allergy families, I want to say: I understand. The fear, the frustration, the grieving for the moments your child misses out on. But the point I’m trying to make is: Don’t give up. You’re doing a great job keeping your child safe and healthy. Keep asking questions. Continue to take advantage of the numerous resources online.

And if you haven’t yet, reach out to others. People might not always understand, but they want to help. My son’s day care teachers are extremely vigilant about making sure he is safe but also making sure he is included. My sister just ground up garbanzo bean and brown rice flour since gluten is now an issue for me. On my last two vacations, my friends went out of their way to make sure we always found allergy-friendly restaurants.

Bottom line: It gets better. People are nice. Remember that.

At last, a recipe! Here is one of our favorite “normal” recipes made allergy-friendly:

Puppy chow (dairy, gluten and nut free)

1 box Rice Chex

2 1/4 cups Enjoy Life chocolate chips

1 1/4 cup soy nut butter (or sunbutter)

1/2 cup Earth Balance spread

3 to 4 cups powdered sugar

Pour cereal into large mixing bowl. Melt chocolate chips, soy nut butter and Earth Balance on stove top. Pour over cereal, mixing it to coat well. Pour powdered sugar over top and mix thoroughly. Enjoy!

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